Launched in 1993, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival Legends Hall of Fame pays tribute to the leaders, groundbreakers and visionaries of Victoria’s food, drink and hospitality industry. It’s a chance to stop and recognise the significant contribution these individuals have made over the course of their careers. More than 150 Legends have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since the program began.
Hostplus Trailblazer Award
There are fish and there are fish, and Bruce Collis’s jump right off the page. “If I see that it’s Bruce’s fish on a menu,” says Legends judge Pat Nourse, “I’m ordering it.” With over 20 years of experience in fishing, Collis has an uncompromising commitment to sustainable and humane fishing practices.
This means a Bruce Collis catch offers both ethical assurance and a tastier, fresher way to enjoy fish. His catch has put Gippsland’s Corner Inlet on the map with both diners and chefs around the country, and these days you’ll find his King George whiting, rock flathead, southern garfish and calamari, among other species, right across the east coast’s finest restaurants, with the top-chef likes of Andrew McConnell, Josh Niland and Neil Perry counted among his biggest fans.
Kirsten Tibballs is commonly referred to as the Queen of Chocolate, and with more than good reason. A Pastry Olympics gold medallist, she’s the founder of Savour Chocolate, the high-water mark of patisserie excellence in Australia. She has published two books and served as a pastry judge in the world’s biggest competitions, but her work as an educational advocate and a teacher is just as noteworthy – she has taught chefs and home cooks right across the globe. In the words of food writer Richard Cornish, “You’d be hard pressed to find a pastry chef with a skill that hasn’t come from Kirsten”.
Caterina Borsato has served Melbourne’s diners from Queen Street for a generation. A lifetime advocate for regional Italian food and an all-round hospitality doyenne, Borsato is an A-grade front-of-house operator from another era – the lifeblood of Caterina’s Cucina e Bar for over 25 years, just as her father was to the original Society on Bourke Street.
A hero to the diners of Queen Street for many years, Borsato has also stepped up her role latterly as a voice for the hospitality community, and her advocacy for the trade in particular caught the attention of our Legends judges in 2022. “Caterina has built the CBD’s food culture,” says Richard Cornish. “She brings enjoyment and appreciation of great food and drinks to us all by virtue of the skill, talent, passion and integrity she brings to the industry.”
“Bruce Chalmers completely transformed Victoria’s wine industry, before many people even knew what he was doing,” says Legend Jill Dupleix. That transformation has been twofold. On the one hand, Bruce Chalmers continues to enrich Australia’s portfolio of vine material with ongoing importations, growth and cloning of new varieties, particularly those from southern Italy.
But he’s also a progressive grape grower, winemaker and vine seller, and is constantly pushing the boundaries of viticultural and winemaking conventions – a focus on water conservation and chemical reduction in the growing process proving instructive for warm climate grape-growing regions across the country. As past Legend Kathleen Quealy said in her nomination for Bruce, “Few people have contributed to the diversification of Victorian wines the way the Chalmers family has”.
Thanks to Sonia Anthony’s work alongside Central Victorian local-food advocates The Fossickers, Bendigo is now recognised as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy – no mean feat. A champion of Bendigo produce, producers, and local talent across the region, Anthony is recognised as a stalwart and advocate of her local and broader community, all the while running her own hospitality business, Masons of Bendigo, home of one of Central Victoria’s favourite set menus, with her husband Nick. “She defines, in every sense, what a local hero is,” says Richard Cornish.
It can be hard to effect environmental change in generational agriculture, but at Tahbilk Wines it’s happening in a big way, and it’s thanks to Hayley Purbrick. One of the few carbon-neutral wineries in Australia, Tahbilk is on course to become “naturally neutral” – carbon neutral without offsets – in the very near future.
“Hayley has not just transformed her own family’s winery in her efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by 45 per cent and become carbon neutral,” says Legend emeritus Jill Dupleix, “but she has also laid out the blueprints for the entire winemaking industry.”
From planning events to writing and editing the annual festival program, and eventually curating it, Bakes was revered as much for her way with words as her way with people, corralling the likes of James Halliday and Len Evans to run the wine rooms in the first MFWF masterclasses. “Only Pam could have done that,” remarked MFWF founder Peter Clemenger. “Pamela was a wonderful woman. Everyone who knew her loved and respected her. She was smart, elegant and had a wicked sense of humour.”